First, sorry to have been a little MIA. We’re in the midst of our big life transition, and although I haven’t lacked in subjects to write about (there are a ton of draft posts waiting), I have lacked in time and brain power. Exactly a year ago last Wednesday, we started our crazy journey that brought us to Hillel for the year. This year, July 1 was our last official day at Hillel, but in keeping with the theme of the year, we worked a little bit on both the 4th and the 5th. On the 6th, we flew to New York to begin our search for a place, and we were successful. It wasn’t exactly an episode of Selling New York but it was definitely educational.
We worked with a broker. Not that a broker is required in the city, but we knew we wouldn’t have time to learn enough about the Manhattan market or set up showings and I got a discount through NYU. Besides, any extra time we spent in NYC would cost us money as well. After checking in with the broker on Wednesday, we met up with a friend from our days at Pardes, someone whom we hadn’t seen in four years. We also met his lovely wife and new baby daughter, and it was great to catch up and get to know each other again knowing we’d have a lot of opportunities to spend more time together in the future.
Back into the heavy lifting of apartment renting, we spent a very hot and humid Thursday trekking up and down the Upper West Side, starting at around 76th street. Although we had looked at a few apartments last year, one of the first things we learned this year was that the market is tighter this year – the vacancy rate has dropped from 1.1% to 0.9% (gotta love Manhattan) and that difference meant we were looking at occupied, smaller apartments versus empty and slightly larger apartments last year.
We never expected a mansion in Manhattan – but some of these apartments were really something else. One particularly memorable one had a porch that was trying to double as a bedroom. However, all hope was not lost. One of our last stops of the day was also the farthest north. It’s at the upper edge of the Upper West Side, but it’s also just a hop from the subway, a bank, a pharmacy and two grocery stores. Not to mention at least two Modern Orthodox minyans that we’re interested in. The biggest bonus though? The washer & dryer INSIDE the unit, combined with a newly-remodeled (although small) kitchen and a super that lives on the block (and seems like a nice guy).
The real downside? Aside from the price, it’s a 2.5 mile schlepp to another congregation, that we (R in particular) are interested in attending. Still, we met friends who make the walk and tell us that it’s doable, so we’re hopeful that it will be a good compromise – bigger apartment with good quality of life vs. a schlepp on Shabbat.
My conclusions? The broker was worth it, although I wouldn’t have minded paying a little less, because he took so much of the stress off of us and worked out all the little kinks in the actual process of applying and getting the lease taken care of. More conclusions than that, I can’t draw, since we don’t live there yet and I can’t tell you how well it worked out!
So, as of Friday (and a lot of forms and back and forth), we have a place in New York City, and suddenly this whole “we’re moving there” thing has become very real. Everyone I introduced myself to over Shabbat, I was able to say that we’re moving to town and had an apartment with a real address, and they, in turn, seemed more interested in us since we weren’t just one-time visitors. It also meant I spent a lot of time talking about myself outside the context of my Hillel work, and I realized that I haven’t spent a lot of time doing that lately. Not only that, but this is the first time that I’m telling the story in this way – that I did Hillel (past tense) and that I am going to be doing (very soon) this program at NYU.
We’re on a much-needed vacation this week, and I’m hoping to take some time to write and reflect on our time at Hillel and this big life transition. And luckily, I’ll be able to share it with all of you.